We got up at the crack of dawn (5:30am) so that we would be able to have breakfast and be ready at 7 to leave on our guided tour to the Ming Tombs and the Badaling (Badabing!) Great Wall. The tour bus drove around picking people up from other hotels for like an hour and a half, before we finally headed out. The "English-speaking" tourguide had a really thick accent so we could hardly understand him. We were kind of disgruntled because in addition to foreign tourists, the bus picked up this load of Chinese tourists, who in typical middle-aged person Beijing fashion had no sense of personal space. These two women sat down behind us and leaned all over our seats, and even though I kept shoving this woman's elbows off my head, she kept putting them back. Argh! These guys had cell phones that were constantly going off really loudly, and for some reason they all have to shout into their phones instead of just speaking normally. Another guy was picking his nose and flicking boogers all over. Gross! We're trying to be culturally accepting, but it's still kind of nast (in T's words). Throughout the rest of the day we kept moving seats around because the people who got stuck sitting in front of the two women once we moved didn't want to sit there again either.
The first stop on the tour bus was a jade factory (read: tourist trap), where we got to peek at people making jade carvings for a couple seconds, then got a while to browse their overpriced jade store. I couldn't resist buying a little jade turtle though.
After that, we headed to the Great Wall at Badaling. This stretch of the wall is the most accessible, which means it's the most crowded (blah!). It was pretty impressive to see the wall and stand on top of it, but we decided not to go all the way to the top of this mountain peak. Also, after squishing through the crowd at the first tower, we didn't want to think about what the other towers would be like! The strange thing is that near the Great Wall they had these like zoo enclosures with bears in them. Strange! Also, people were constantly trying to sell us stuff, but the only English they know is "hello" and the name of what they're selling, so people kept yelling "Hello T-Shirt! Hello! Hello! Hello post card! Hello!" It got pretty irritating after a while.
The next stop was lunch (thankfully, as we were totally starving) at a "tourist restaurant." I thought it was pretty tasty, T thought it was "unauthentic."
After that we went to the Ming Tombs. We got to see this tower and a little museum place with a big statue of Emperor Yongle (pronounced Yong Le, not like 'dongle'), and the mountain that the underground palace is inside of, but we didn't actually get to go into the excavated sites or anything.
The last stop (once we were all falling asleep on the bus) was a Chinese medicine academy. Here, someone talked about how Chinese traditional doctors determine your balance of yin and yang by taking your pulse with three fingers on each wrist, then they got to take our pulses and tell us what was wrong with us and why we should waste our tourist money on their medicines. They told me I'm too fat and so my liver function must be bad, and they told T she's too skinny so she must have chronic gastritis.
Finally we got to go home after that. The bus breathed a sigh of relief when we stopped to let off the Chinese tourists. I was saying that it seems like everyone over 35 here is really rude and nasty, and T says it's because they lived through the Cultural Revolution (I'm still not totally clear on what that was).
We got back to the hotel at like 7, where we had for dinner: a mini-muffin with strawberry filling, a banana, one corn puff (I bought a bag of "sweet corn puffs" but they were more MSG than sweet), and chocolate milk for me, and a bag of Chips Ahoy, one corn puff, and water for T. We were exhausted so we just went to sleep.
This morning T's cousin came to pick us up, and we went to his apartment. He and his girlfriend took us out to lunch, which T claims was "pretty authentic." (I don't see what's more authentic than eating at a restaurant *in* China, but whatever.) The scary part was getting to the restaurant -- T's cousin drove us on the back of his motorcycle! If I haven't mentioned already, traffic in Beijing is really, REALLY scary. It's scarier on a motorcycle (which scares me even at home). At least we were only going like two blocks and we were going about 10mph, if that. Anyway, lunch was HUGE and very tasty. T is always making fun of "unauthentic" foods like mushu pork, but we had Peking Duck, which was basically like mushu duck (I'm failing to see how changing duck to pork makes something less authentic).
[T: Let me clarify my beef with "unauthentic": I just don't like it when people's only conception of Chinese food is Panda Express.]
[J: Of course the "unauthentic" food at the tourist restaurant was nothing like what they serve at Panda Express, especially the whole fish.]
We had a "true Chinese experience" (T's term) paying for lunch, where we threw money back and forth across the table until her cousin relented and took it.
T's cousin is a medical student, and since T was curious, he took us to the hospital to look around. It was really depressing. The hospital is in this beat up old building, and it's really dirty, and all the equipment looks like it's at least 20 years old. There were also surprisingly few people there.
After that we went back to the subway and made our way back to the hotel. T laughed at people on the subway who were trying to understand what we were saying, because they assumed she didn't speak Chinese. We grabbed some ice cream at the store downstairs, and headed up to relax. I sent 10 more postcards today, hopefully they will get to their destinations before I get home. I know I still owe a couple people postcards, but they will probably arrive after me.
Tomorrow we have to wake up REALLY at the crack of dawn (like 4am) to get to the airport for our flight to Bangkok. Our main plan for Thailand is to relax in our hotel, and avoid being broiled alive outside or choking on polluted air (according to T's guidebook, Bangkok is really polluted like Beijing).
I've been in Asia over a month now, which is kind of scary. Happy Independence Day, by the way! Anyway, I think we'll be ready to go home ten days from now. [T: I concur.] (and she's only been in Asia for two weeks!)